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What I’d Like to See in my Agent Inbox in 2019
In general, my manuscript wish list stays the same no matter the season or year! But for 2019, I’m really hoping to see these kinds of projects in particular appear in my inbox. Similar to 2018, but with some adjustments.
Please note: my inbox is flooded with YA and Adult fantasy. I don’t mind that one bit! But I’m already pretty particular about fantasy, and I do represent a variety of fantasy writers already. To really expand my list, I’d like to see more in these categories and genres…
Adult Historical Fiction || I love all sorts of historical fiction, especially when it branches off little-known aspects of history, or it takes on a fresh new look at popular historical events (WWI and WWII, for example, are incredibly common on the shelves, but it’s how the story is told or the unique perspective the story is told through that brings them to the shelves). For example, my favorite historical fiction includes Shadow on the Crown (Emma of Normandy and early British history), The Alice Network (WWI/WWII parallel narrative shining light on female spy networks), The Romanov Empress (about Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, wife of Alexander III and mother of Nicholas II), and Dear Mrs. Bird (WWII advice columnist/slice-of-life narrative). I would love to see some more light shed on impressive women in history and the things they accomplished despite society’s limitations (STEM, feminism, code-breaking, politics/reigns). Admittedly, I’m most drawn to European (specifically English) history, but I’m open to reading anything as long as the premise is compelling and fresh.
Adult Contemporary/Historical Parallel Narratives in Fiction || There are great ways to introduce parallel narratives in historical and contemporary women’s fiction. Some of my favorites include anything pertaining to archivists, curators, scribes, researchers, and academics. Sometimes the parallel narrative is in the form of epistolary fiction –– artifacts and documents the curator, archivist, or researcher in the modern day stumbles across that takes us into the historical narrative literally (like The Weight of Ink and Possession) or figuratively (Meet Me at the Museum). I especially adore fiction that follows said curator, archivist, and academic on their journey, like The Clockmaker’s Daughter. I’m open to two historical narratives (Letters from Skye) as well as one historical and one contemporary, just as long as both narratives are tied in some way while still having two separate, compelling journeys.
Adult Contemporary Women’s Fiction || Some of my favorite contemporary women’s fiction tends to be a bit on the morally ambiguous side of things, tackling taboo topics or shedding light on a hot-button issue in a new way. The queen of this, I think, is Jodi Picoult. I also adore women’s fiction that is about the average woman doing average things, experiencing the difficulties of everyday life, and growing from it — such as Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, A Window Opens, Leave Me, Goodbye, Paris, and The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living. On the flip-side, I love chick-lit — humorous women’s fiction that’s appealing to a millennial audience, about young women in the workplace and the silly things that happen in their life. My absolute favorite is Sophie Kinsella, along with The Hating Game, Attachments, and You and Me, Always. Romance is not a primary draw for me, but it doesn’t turn me off to the story, either!
Adult Historical Fantasy || I’m such a sucker for these, especially if there are elements of romance. The voice and the writing in historical fantasy is exactly what I love about the two genres separately. It’s accessible, even when it’s a world entirely different from our own. The characters’ voices are enticing, their daily life is familiar, as if I’ve always been a part of it, thanks to the historical aspects of the world. Some of my favorite books and series, such as Outlander, Daughter of the Forest, and The Winter Witch, are historical fantasies. Others, such as City of Brass, Uprooted, The Bear and the Nightingale, and The Queen of Blood, are inspired by history and folklore, though not necessarily part of actual historical pasts. I’d love to see more historical fantasies inspired by other cultures’ histories and folklore, much like my client Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand.
Young Adult Contemporary Fiction || It is all about the voice for me when it comes to YA contemporary. When I read YA contemporary, I need to feel like I’m talking to my high school best friend. Teen readers can spot inauthenticity in a heartbeat, and you want to make sure you have their desires and heartbreaks in the voice of your protagonist. You’re not an adult trying to be a teen — you are a teen. That said, I am seeking fantastic rom-coms like When Dimple Met Rishi (technology camps!), Royals (royals’ sidekicks fall in love!) and Anna and the French Kiss (study abroad programs!), badass heroines like Dumplin’ (fighting against stereotypes!), books that handle mental states with honesty like When We Collided and What to Say Next, and great family and friendship dynamics like Emma Mills, Morgan Matson, and Jenny Han. Perfect examples of this are my own clients Jared Reck (A Short History of the Girl Next Door) and Nina Moreno (Don’t Date Rosa Santos). I’d love to see more characters with fun and interesting jobs, unique hobbies, and (as a past drum major) more marching band narratives! I tend to lean on the lighter side of things, with hope at the end of the tunnel, rather than something dark and gritty from the get go and very little humor to carry throughout. I do like tear-jerkers, but I want that spark of hope and inspiration at the end.
Young Adult Historical || Historical fiction is very hard to break into in YA. Sometimes it needs to have magical elements, sometimes it needs to be an era that readers are familiar with. Look to your own city, look to the history books, look to your family history, and see what seemingly small event had a large impact for that area. A Prisoner of Night and Fog is set in Germany in the 1930s, not quite WWII but through the perspective of someone in the middle of the frightening changes in the country; Outrun the Moon is set during the San Francisco earthquake, and how race and economic status barriers fell in a state of emergency; A Madness So Discreet is set across America in the 1800s, battling patriarchy and standing up for those unlawfully sentenced to mental institutions; The Forbidden Orchid is set in Asia as a Victorian girl hunts down her father, a man in the middle of a race to find a perfect, rare orchid; The Bird and the Blade, though partially based on a folk tale, is inspired by historical events during the Mongol Empire and the Great Khan’s reign of power. There are so many more — but great YA historical fiction requires an intriguing and original premise, a general accessibility, and bringing the past to life. I would love to see historical fiction set outside the US and Western Europe!
For a final once-over, feel free to follow my #mswl and #MSWLaesthetic on Twitter, read my Manuscript Wishlist post, follow submission guidelines, read up on Publishers Marketplace deals, and catch up on this blog once in a while to read my thoughts and reviews of published works. Every little bit helps to getting representation! Oh, and as a reminder:
ALWAYS seeking: diversity. Race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, mentality, health, economic status, religious affiliation, all of it. The obvious shouldn’t need to be said — that I want my projects to reflect the beautiful diversity of the world, that I want to see and share with others life through another’s eyes, that I want to see these differences expressed through art and creation and culture, that these books need to be on bookshelves — but that’s the state of things. So yes, there is no question to it: I want diversity.
ALWAYS open to queries: even during times of the year when publishing seems extra busy, or extra slow, or I’m on vacation or traveling — I am open to queries. I never close. I read every single query. It’s unfair to you as the writer to try to keep track of all the agents who are opened or closed, and (selfishly) it’s unfair to me to be closed when something truly remarkable could have been in my inbox for me to represent. SO! With that said, if I’m busy or traveling or on vacation, I’ll have an away message up with clear, simple instructions about what will happen with your query in the time I’m away. I am never closed to queries.
NEVER seeking: anything set in space, anything set in the future, thrillers and suspense (psychological, military, legal, political, or otherwise), all nonfiction (poems, essays, memoirs, how-tos, everything nonfiction), paranormal romance, erotica. If your project uses any of these concepts to describe it, it’s an automatic no. I’m not the agent for any of these projects, so please do not send them to me.
I hope this is helpful! I’m looking forward to receiving great manuscripts and selling lots in 2019!